Does Sound Travel At The Same Speed In Air And Water? Does It Go On Forever?

Sound is one of the fastest things on Earth. It can travel at a speed of 343 meters per second, depending on the temperature and air resistance. Despite these factors, it is undoubted that sound travels at exceptional speed.

One thing that may catch our attention is that if sound travels at extreme speed through the air, would it be the same when they go through water? Furthermore, does the speed of sound go on forever?

What is the speed of sound?

Sound is a product of vibrations created by different objects. For example, a drum can produce sound by hitting it with a stick. Upon beating the drum, it will create vibrations, which are responsible for making air molecules move, causing a sound wave. The vibrations produced on the drum are not visible to the naked eye, but our ears can hear it.

Air is full of tiny particles. When an object generates a sound wave, the small air particles carry it through into our ears.

Interestingly, these waves move so fast that if a sound is made, we can almost hear it right away. It is because sound can travel at a whopping speed of 343 meters per second when in dry air at twenty degrees Celcius. The speed of sound varies depending on the place, mainly its temperature and air resistance. It is because of the properties of sound; it travels through the air in the form of waves.

Does sound travel faster in water than in air?

As mentioned earlier, sound travels at different rates depending on the circumstances. Temperature is one factor for its varying speed, that is why sound travels faster in warm air than in cold air.

However, the air is not the only reason for the shift in sound speed. Another factor for the increase and decrease of its rate is the medium the waves move through. One example of this is water. If sound travels in water, it would have a speed that is four and a half times faster than it would go in the air. Sounds created underwater travel towards our ears, which will cause the vibrations directly to our skull bones. The skull bones have a heavy bone at the back of our ear, which is also responsible for interpreting sound. The sound waves go straight to this part of the ear, instead of the inner ear or the ossicles bones.

Furthermore, sound travels faster through steel compared to any other substance. It goes on a rate of about sixteen times faster than in air.

Moreover, even though sound travels through air, certain gasses contribute to changing the rate of its movement. The lighterthe gas, the faster the sound waves travel through it if the temperature and pressure of all gasses are the same. For example, if we live in a world where our atmosphere consists of more hydrogen than oxygen and nitrogen, then we would hear a clap of thunder much more quickly than usual.

If we use this as an example, sound travels 1.6 kilometers for five seconds through the air on average.  Let’s say a storm is 6.4 kilometers away from us;usually,we can hear the thunder about twenty seconds after we see the lightning. However, if we live in a world where our atmosphere is abundant of hydrogen, we would hear the thunder about five seconds after the flash.

Does sound lasts forever?

For starters, no sound lasts forever. The waves that carry sound becomes weaker and weaker until it entirely loses vibration, or until our ears can hear them no more.

There are many ways for sound to cease to move. The sound could either undergo total reflection, absorption, or scattering.

If it undergoes reflection, it will reflect sound similar to how a mirror reflects light. Although it is not a hundred percent accurate, the reflection of sound explains why there are echos in some places. Then we have absorption. Similar to light, sound can be absorbed too. It is because sound travels in the form of waves, which is carried through the air. If it passes through a material or substance that can absorb sound, it would gradually become weaker until it entirely loses its vibration.

Lastly, if the sound waves did not go through reflection or absorption, it will undergo the process of scattering. Scattering prompts the sound waves to fade away as it travels in the air until it becomes completely inaudible.